Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Category: Business Development (page 3 of 88)

Is your service answering a question, which your ideal clients are asking?

Here’s a simple, powerful tip, to help you create an extremely profitable new product, service or business.

The next big thing

I get emails daily, from people who want me to invest in their new project. Almost all of them are trying to be the next Amazon.com, Craigslist or Twitter, etc.

With little or no funding, no gap in the market and no one looking for a clone business, their projects have no legs. In other words, no one is talking about them or asking to get involved. Why? Because these look-a-like projects are answering a question, which no one is asking.

A better way to succeed

Start by answering a compelling question, which potential customers are asking and willing to pay for the answer to.

A scalable, affordable way to do this is to listen to your marketplace, via social networks. Look for common problems they face — things that frustrate them, cost them too much time, etc. Do the research and see if you’ve identified a gap in the market. Look at the numbers and if it all stacks up, give it the focus and energy it needs.

Building an answer to THAT question, will massively improve your chances of success.

How to beat the feast or famine trap

If your sales results are too erratic or you find yourself in that feast-or-famine trap, this post is written just for you.

Most businesses offer products or services, which people are only interested in when they have a problem. If your business provides the answer to a problem, there’s a very good chance you’re using the wrong marketing approach.

I’m going to explain why and also show you how to get it right.

Knowing you before they need you

Coaches, accountants, designers, dentists, trainers, insurance professionals, lawyers, consultants, etc — are only sought after when someone has a requirement.

Here’s the thing: If they already know who you are, before they need you, you are massively more likely to earn their custom, than some provider they have never heard of.

I once heard Mercedes’ head of advertising say, that if Mercedes focused on showing people advertisements, the week before they were about to buy a new car, it wouldn’t work. So, Mercedes focus on getting their marketing messages in front of us when we’re kids. Then, when we’re 35 and are thinking of buying a luxury car, we think of Mercedes.

Whilst that approach is longer-term than most small or medium-sized businesses need to consider, the advice is sound. It’s all about the client or customer knowing who we are, before they need us.

Switch from short-term gambits to a long-term strategy

Market strategically. Make marketing an ongoing part of your business, not something you do when you lose a client or when sales are down. Remain relevant to your marketplace. Stay in their mind. Keep earning their attention, through strategic, useful, permission-based marketing.

In short: If you want great, long-term results, you need to make long-term plans.

5 Useful tips to make your next project fly!

If you’re thinking of launching a new product, service or business, here are 5 tips to help you get it right.

  1. Great ideas are not anointed. They fly or die based on merit and hard work. If you believe in what you’re doing, if the research and numbers stack up, go for it. This will help you.
  2. Pick your clients or customers deliberately. Then, focus your marketing message so that it’s 100% relevant to this group. If you don’t know who your ideal clients or customers are, you’re not ready to launch. This will help you.
  3. Don’t sell something, if people can buy it from Amazon for less.
  4. If you sell a commodity product or service, customise it. If you’re 1 of 30 accountants in your area, give people a valid reason why they should hire you, rather than an equally qualified competitor. Tell people why they should eat at your restaurant and not a similarly priced competitor’s place. This will help you.
  5. Embrace blogging or newsletters. Give the marketplace an insight into you and your business. Tell them your story. When they feel like they know you, you’re far less of a gamble to them, than hiring or buying from a stranger. I focus on blogging. Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

I hope you found those tips useful. More importantly, I hope you find something there, which you can put into action.

Stop working for low quality clients. Seriously. Stop it!

If you are tired of working for low value clients, I have an idea I would like to share with you. It has helped me attract the best clients, avoid the worst clients and build an extremely successful business. It can do the same for you.

A very deliberate choice

Before deciding to accept a new client, I ask myself the following question:

Is this prospective client worthy of my best work?

  • If the answer is Yes, I accept them as a client and provide them with the best work I am capable of.
  • If the answer is No, I don’t work with them.
  • If I agree to work with a client and later find they lied to me, to make me say Yes, I fire them.

Here’s the payback

As a direct result, I have never had a cash flow problem. I have never had to face a client I didn’t enjoy working with and always had the freedom to do my very best work. By being able to do my best work, my clients get great results, so my client retention is exceptionally high. Equally, my clients and former clients are a constant source of high quality referrals.

The opposite approach is to accept any client who says they want to work with you.

  • To work for clients who pay you late and ruin your cash flow.
  • To work for clients who are over demanding.
  • To work for clients who take the joy away from your work.

Every business owner, including you, makes the decision. You either decide to work with the people worthy of your best work or to compromise and work for those who are not.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Jim!

When I share this idea with business owners, the typical answer from those who will work with anyone, is that beggars can’t be choosers.

The thing is:

  • They are business owners, not beggars.
  • They are already choosing, by choosing to work for low value clients.

High value clients lead to more high value clients, as they recommend you to their friends and you become known for servicing the quality end of the market.

Low value clients lead to more low value clients, as you become pigeon-holed as servicing the cheap end of your marketplace.

In short, if your current client choices are not working for you, it’s time to try another approach.

PS: If you want me to help you get this right, read this.

Behind the scenes: The tools I use every day

I often get asked about the tools I use for my daily work. The image above is pretty-much the standard set-up for me… extremely minimal, with everything I need and nothing I don’t need.

Here’s some more detail, including the hardware and software I use.

Hardware

I use MacBooks now for all my production work. I have a MacBook Pro for the office and a MacBook Air for writing on the move. For 20 years I was a Windows user, however, I switched to a Mac last summer and have never looked back. The design, usability, portability and speed of these machines makes them ideal for me.

I can get an idea out of my head, without having to wait or wrestle with the hardware / software. They boot up from cold in just 13 seconds and everything ‘just works’ without a hitch.

Interestingly, as I always bought high end Windows machines, I have saved hundreds by switching to Macs. Macs are only more expensive than PC’s, if you’re switching from low or mid-range PC’s. My last Lenovo Think Pad cost almost as much as my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air combined.

Thinking

I’m extremely visual, so I  have a notepad with me all the time and use it to capture ideas or simply doodle, whilst I am thinking.

It seems that the physical act of moving a pen or pencil on paper, aids my creativity. I keep all my old notepads and often go back to them months or years later, for inspiration or ideas. I love fountain pens and fine tip drawing pens. I use lots of different coloured ink. I also use mechanical pencils.

Software

Here’s the main software I use for work.

I use WordPress for blogging. There are other blogging platforms out there but none provide me with the flexibility or functionality I need, other than WordPress. It’s the only blogging platform I recommend.

I use Instagram, though in a slightly different way to most people. I use it for inspiration. I follow lots of designers and creators and often get inspired by seeing their imagery. You can join me on Instagram here.

I use iA Writer for most of my writing. It’s a distraction-free writing program, which presents you with a totally clear computer screen – no menu bars, just a 100% blank canvas.

I use Evernote mainly for capturing ideas from websites. It’s also useful as a cloud based way to organise notes, sounds and images.

I use Skype for client calls. I work with business owners worldwide and Skype allows me to not only speak with my clients, but share screens, video conference, share links and use a whiteboard together.

I use Microsoft Office. I have clients who hire me to write for them and they tend to use Word, so I use Word when writing for them. I also prefer Outlook to any of the Mac email apps.

I use PicMonkey for the graphics you see in my blog posts and social network posts. I use the premium version, though the free version does everything I need. I just like to pay developers, when I use their work. I wrote a short review of PicMonkey here.

That’s it.

Of course, it’s what we do with the tools we use that matters. However, we can make things a lot easier by selecting the correct tools for the job. I hope you found something there, which helps you with your work flow.

Main photo: Alejandro Escamilla

How to lift your business to a whole new level

If your business has been spinning it’s wheels or it’s growth is slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

I’m going to show you how to get your business flying, based on 2 questions that every successful business needs to answer. Yes, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I want to achieve with my business?
  2. Am I willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners have no clear idea of what they want to achieve. They say things like they want a successful business or they want to be wealthy, but they never get specific. Here’s the thing: You can’t know if you are on track or not, with no clear destination.

The key, is to get specific. Describe in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

A great way to get clear on this, is to ask yourself the following question: If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down!

Avoid general terms and use specifics. Also, use numbers in your answer whenever possible.

For example, include things like:

  • How much you want your business to generate in revenue and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • How much you want to earn.
  • How much you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

Then, describe things like the type of clients or customers you want, what your typical work day would look like and where your business would be located, etc.

Build as clear a picture as possible and include everything that matters to you.

Once you have the specifics written down, it’s time to answer the next question.

Are you willing to pay the price?

The challenge with this question, is that business owners tend to give the wrong answer. We tend to say we work hard and that we work long hours.

That is not what the question asks!

The question is about our willingness to do what’s required in order to succeed. It asks us if we’re willing to leave our comfort zones… again and again. Paying the price for success means doing 100% of what’s required, not cherry-picking the things we feel comfortable with. It means committing to pay the price of success in advance, with no guarantees.

Here’s why we make the extra effort

It looks like this:

  • Success belongs to those who take time to decide exactly what they want to achieve and who then determine to pay the price for success.
  • Those with less clarity and less commitment, find themselves working hard and making too little progress.

Interestingly, although the difference in the rewards between those approaches is immeasurable, the extra effort required is relatively small.

The good news is that as you become more familiar with leaving your comfort zone, it gets easier and easier. Equally, the motivation to pay the price becomes greater, when you start to see the results and rewards coming in.

Tip: I recommend you read this — What everybody ought to know about Comfort Zones.

How to build a great business, doing things YOUR way

If you want to work with better clients and never need to compete based on fees again, here’s something to consider.

Doing things your way

The moment you stop offering a similar service to your competitors, you stop competing with them. The great news here, is that no matter what industry you are in, you can do things your way and build a highly profitable niche of your own.

Here are 4 examples, from very different industries:

  • The accountant, who set up a forum for his clients, so they can network together, help one another and buy from one another.
  • The coffee shop owner, who offers customers poetry evenings and creative writing events.
  • The dentist, who provides classes for people who have an irrational fear of dentists.
  • The gardener, who not only keeps your garden looking great, but also provides all the garden consumables you need and delivers them.

How to make it work for you

Think about your ideal client. Consider their challenges and needs. Now, think of a new service that could help them with those challenges. Alternatively, look for additional, valuable elements, which you can add to one or more of your existing services.

Tip: A great place to find ideas you can use, is to look outside your industry for inspiration. Something that’s extremely common in one industry, is often unheard of in another.

If you need a little help getting your ideas into action, I strongly suggest you read this.

How to get all the help you and your business need

I’d like to share an idea with you today. It’s about how to get all the help you and your business will ever need.

Of course, we see people doing it wrong every day. Strangers, asking us to do things for them.

  • They ask us to connect with them on Linkedin.
  • They ask us to tell our friends about their business.
  • They ask us to retweet their Twitter messages.
  • They ask us, via a spam email, to subscribe to the newsletter they just sent us.

The list goes on and on… strangers making selfish demands.

Selfish demands don’t work

Selfish demands succeed only in irritating people. I receive around a dozen emails a day, from total strangers who expect me to write blog posts about their product or service. I refuse. Always. Like most people, I don’t respond positively to selfish demands from strangers.

So, why is it that some people have no problem getting all the help they need?

Why we eagerly helped Jenny and felt great about it

When a friend of mine launched her new business, she was inundated with people who wanted to help. If you knew Jenny, you’d know why. She’s one of the most helpful people I have ever met.

The launch of her business was an opportunity for me and many others, to repay her kindness and support.

The power of reciprocity

This need to return someone’s kindness is sometimes referred to as reciprocity. And it’s extremely powerful. It’s why the process of giving and receiving, starts with the giving part. It’s why we earn the money… then get paid.

Selfish demands fail because they attempt to do the opposite. When the guy emails me and asks me to post his infographic on my blog, it’s 100% about him.

  • He gets exposure to my amazing readers.
  • He gets a valuable link, from my blog to his site.
  • He gets his company name in front of thousands of people.
  • All I get is the penalty of linking my blog and reputation to a stranger — A stranger I know nothing about, other than he’s the kind of asshole, who spams people with selfish demands.

Those who demand strangers to do things for them, face a lot of  disappointment. Not only do they fail to get what they demand, they get something they didn’t ask for — a toxic reputation.

A better mindset for business owners

The smartest people are always building relationships with others. They keenly look for ways to contribute. They do this, without knowing (or caring) if they will need that person’s help in the future. That’s the mindset, my friend Jenny has.

In short: Before you expect people to be motivated to help you or your business, make sure you’ve invested in them, first. Remember, give and take starts with the giving part.

PS: If you found today’s post interesting, I recommend you read this: 3 Mistakes that make you look bad and damage your business.

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